From the NY Times:
The list from census data isn’t all that surprising, but there it is.
Westchester County, No. 1. Nassau, No. 2. Hunterdon and Bergen in New Jersey, Nos. 3 and 4, respectively.
And so it goes. Of the 10 counties in the country with the highest median property taxes, every one is in New York or New Jersey.
This, as anyone who breathes oxygen knows, is a high-tax region. But as Richard Nathan packed up his office on Friday after 45 years of studying or participating in state, local and federal tax and budget policies, he wondered if we had finally reached a breaking point.
“I’m a little surprised there hasn’t been more heat and more agitation about tax caps and tax burdens in the way there has been in other parts of the country,” said Dr. Nathan, who retired as co-director of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government at the State University of New York at Albany. “I keep thinking, ‘When is this dog going to bark?’ And the numbers make you think it’s going to be soon. It just feels different right now.”
“It’s the No. 1 issue,” he said. “People have reached their breaking point. But we still have a long way to go in connecting the dots between dysfunction in state government and high property taxes.”
Still, breaking point or not, who knows where this goes? A Proposition 13-style temper tantrum? Painful cuts — meaning teachers and police? Throw out the bums — most likely Democrats, who could be fat targets in an antitax backlash? Lots of grumbling but living with an increasingly unaffordable status quo?
From the Philly Inquirer:
With the ebbing of the real estate market, a record-bursting tide of property-tax appeals is inundating assessment offices all over the region – and the nation – with appeal numbers double and triple what they were last year.
What is happening locally “is a microcosm of the whole country,” said John Garippa, a New Jersey tax lawyer and president of the American Property Tax Counsel in Chicago. “It’s an incredible, incredible number of appeals.”
New Jersey has smashed records for county-level and court filings, he said. Camden County’s 1,260 appeals were triple last year’s. More than 14,000 were filed in Ocean County, and with an April 1 appeal deadline, the county typically wraps up hearings during the summer; this year, they will be lapping into November.
The assessment offices are in the recessionary cross-fire because, of all the major levies, real estate is the only one that a taxpayer can fight. Wage, sales, and head taxes are immutable, but a property-tax bill is arguable.
The tax bill is based on the assessment – the portion of market value that is subject to taxation. And if a property owner can demonstrate that the true market value is less than the assessors’ estimate, the tax bill can be lowered.
With property values sagging, the appeals business is surging. It’s not surprising that the Garden State’s appeals would be off the charts, said Jerry Cantrell, president of the New Jersey Taxpayers Association, because the state’s real estate levy is among the nation’s highest. “It hits everybody,” Cantrell said.
If the big driver in New Jersey is the sheer magnitude of the bills, the tax matrix is a tad more complicated in Pennsylvania.
Tax experts think that with values continuing to fall, the appeals business will continue to rise.
Said Sharkey: “I think next year is going to be worse.”